A Volunteer’s Perspective
By Aaron Elliott
Las Vegas is no stranger to visitors. In the month leading up to IMEX America, Las Vegas saw over 3 million visitors and in 2013, an average of 425,000 of them were convention attendees. All of these visitors, of course, bring revenue to the city and employment to Las Vegas residents, but IMEX America turned to their IMEX Challenge to provide more to the Las Vegas area.
The IMEX Challenge is a humanitarian effort that creates a positive and long-lasting legacy in a community. This year, the IMEX Challenge focused its efforts on the Shade Tree, a local Las Vegas shelter for women, children and their pets. Together with support from Sands Cares, GES and 50+ volunteers, a new healing garden was built to provide a peaceful space for Shade Tree residents.as Vegas is no stranger to visitors. In the month leading up to IMEX America, Las Vegas saw over 3 million visitors and in 2013, an average of 425,000 of them were convention attendees. All of these visitors, of course, bring revenue to the city and employment to Las Vegas residents, but IMEX America turned to their IMEX Challenge to provide more to the Las Vegas area.
This year, I was fortunate enough to take part in the IMEX Challenge. When I first arrived at the Shade Tree, I was blown away by the facility, its offerings and the level of passion that lives within its walls. The largely volunteer-run facility has a full physician’s office, a learning center (with a strong focus on child education), a playground, job placement programs and a basement filled with thousands of articles of clothing and storage for the 1 ton of food that is donated daily!
Over the two days of the Challenge I helped to sort donated items, plant trees, install irrigation and lay mulch while observing the complete transformation of the outside garden space. During this transformation, I worked side by side with many wonderful volunteers from the meetings industry and was able to get to know them in a very unique way. While IMEX America has always been built on collaboration and forming connections, during the Challenge these connections weren’t made at meetings in business attire, but rather through physical work and helping others. There is just something about picking up a shovel and getting dirty that serves to strengthen relationships.
The opportunity to be involved with this year’s IMEX Challenge allowed me to step back and realize what a unique position we are in as event attendees. For people in the events industry, it is sometimes difficult working to make a lasting difference to the places we visit. Most of us are just visiting for a short time; the world we step into isn’t our own and a few days later, when the event ends, we depart. The IMEX Challenge allowed me to broaden my connection to Las Vegas and to better understand the world outside the Vegas Strip. As with the 3 million visitors Las Vegas sees each month, our time is brief, but through programs like the IMEX Challenge we can challenge ourselves to leave each place better than when we arrived.